Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 16, 2011

Shrek-The Musical

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through February 20, 2011
by R.E. Smith

If one thought that "Shrek-The Musical" was created just to cash in on a popular movie franchise, one would probably be astonished and amazed to discover that this is a finely crafted, ultimately satisfying, musical experience. Economics must have made its run on Broadway so short, because everything about the show, staging, performances, and music is solid, high quality, polished entertainment.

Eric Petersen as Shrek
Following the plot of the first "Shrek" film, the story finds our "big green and ugly" hero embarking on a quest to rescue Princess Fiona and secure the peace and quiet of his beloved swamp. Along the way, he is befriended by a loyal companion, Donkey, and discovers that there's always more than meets the eye.

Children made up half the audience at the Bushnell, but many adults recited favorite lines and giggled with delight when characters like Gingy the gingerbread boy made an appearance. As befits a smelly ogre, much of the humor stems from bodily functions. The bonding "battle of noises" between Fiona and Shrek will have even the most jaded theatregoers snickering. There are also a number of sly winks to other Broadway shows.

The score features some truly wonderful songs, such as the rousing production numbers "Freak Flag" and "Morning Person," the latter which features tap dancing rats. "I Know It's Today" is an inventive piece, humorous yet touching, that finds Fiona singing in three-part harmony with herself. Who would have imagined that a cursed princess, a donkey, and an ogre could so powerfully deliver a truly moving ballad like "Who I'd Be"?

Inventive staging finds its inspiration from the animated palette of the films. The unique portrayal of "vertically challenged" Lord Farquarrd elicits laughs just by its very existence and the fact that the audience is in on the conceit. Then there is the dragon, an awesome and dazzling bit of stage puppetry that makes for an awesome spectacle.

"Shrek-the Musical" would be a wonderful way to introduce the family to the wonders of musical theatre. However, make no mistake, this show is worth seeing whether you have children or not.